T&A comedy from beyond the stars
Thankfully, Cat Planet Cuties (Asobi ni Ikuyo) brings more to the table than many sets of ample breasts (unlike other series that shall remain named earlier in this review.) Yet another harem anime, this show surrounds nerdy Kio with not only Aoi and Manami, a pair of girls who want him, yet can't let themselves show it, but a buxom alien cat woman named Eris, who is more than willing to make her affection for the guy known. Of course, as is par for the harem course, Kio is debilitated by his shyness regarding the girls, and freaks out any time there's a bit of contact or a flash of flesh. It may help drag out the tangled romances a bit, keeping him from pouncing on the first available girl, but it gets tired seeing a guy lose it whenever he sees a breast.
In this show, Eris arrives on Earth to gather info about the humans, and ends up staying with Kio, where she studies culture via the porno under his bed. Her people, the Catians, declare his home an embassy, from which they attempt diplomatic relations with Earth. Having a bunch of big-breasted aliens whose understanding of clothing and relationships is drawn from nudie mags doesn't sit well with Manami, Kio's lifelong best friend, or Aoi, a shy girl from school attempting to make a connection with him. However, there are bigger fish to fry, since the arrival of the Catians has caused conflict with the Dogishua, a dog-like alien race who have long established a base of power on this planet, and don't want the Catians around
The show bounces back and forth (pun intended) between the sex comedy of Kio's interactions with the girls, the romantic drama of the competition between Aoi, Manami and Eris, and the sci-fi action of the struggle between the Catians and Dogishua, building to a climactic battle with the fate of the Earth on the line. While the action is exciting and the romance gets plenty of play, the general tone of the series is comedic, and frequently quite silly. Each episode opens with a parody of an old TV show (keep your ears open for the Red Dwarf music), there's a subplot about a cult of kitty worshippers led by a Greek heiress that adds a bunch of new oddballs to the group, and the show includes lots of broad comedy, like a trip to the beach that illustrates the problems of sharing a swimsuit with a woman who has a tail. If anything clearly states where this sci-fi and T&A show is coming from, it would be a gun that can remove clothing.
It's such a light-hearted series that when it gets deep in episode nine, a reflective entry that focuses on the Catians' Assistroids, helper robots who once were designed to look like the Catians, it's a harsh speedbump that threatens to derail the series. There's also a bit of pile-on in terms of the plot, which can lead to some confusion, a mortal enemy of funny. The introduction of the Dogishua, done through shadowy cut-aways and small glimpses, is a bit off-balance and harshly integrated, while the addition of Ichika, a character who grows in importance as the series continues, is hardly explained at all, just showing up suddenly.
Though Eris is adorable and a cosplay dream with her kitty ears and tail, the real breakout stars of this series are the Assistroids, whose design makes them a perfect mascot for the series. Communicating via hand-held (and frequently misspelled) placards, they are always around in legion, and willing to lend a hand. While their looks, signs and sheer numbers make them fun, it's when the show's stars are assigned personal Assistroids that they become great, as they can be assigned personalities, like Manami's little Yun-Fat, named and styled after the movie star, complete with a flock of doves. Cutesy, yes, but take them out, and the show suffers.
If the end of the series' big build-up and sci-fi blow-out doesn't jive with the silliness of the rest of the series, that's OK, because it comes back with an OVA that's pure fan-service, centered around strip competitive gaming. That's right, all the main characters, locked in game combat, with nudity as the ultimate prize (and presumably the viewer being the big winner. It was hard to believe it when it was happening, but it's so ridiculous, you have to laugh.
Regarding the dialogue, though I am in no way a hardcore anime fan (watching a series here or there that catches my fancy) I generally stick to the original Japanese voices with English subtitles. However, this is one of the few series I've watched where I found the English voices to be more entertaining, perhaps in part because their more Americanized, fun spirit paired better with the tone of the series than the more formal translation. Though I certainly could have done without the cat and dog puns, which were definitely a state-side invention and are paws-itively terrible. See?
Considering all of the bombast this series offers up on-screen, the audio presentation is a bit of a disappointment. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English track is clean and distortion-free, there's not a lot for the surround speakers to do, with the exception of some of the outer-space scenes and the Catian's powers and technology. In fact, if you flip between the English 5.1 and the Japanese 2.0, you wouldn't notice a lot of difference depending on the scene you're watching (outside of the language of course.) Other than that, the mix is handled well, keeping the dialogue, score and sound effects neatly separate.
It's hard to explain what the next set of extras, 14 brief clips, is, because the title "Extra Bonus Features" doesn't really explain much. It seems like they are original bumpers from the end of the episodes (since they match up with the "next time on" theme) but they are completely wacky, with silly nonsensical dialogue. Now, these could be American outtakes, but there are English translation subtitles that include some of the odd topics as well, so it's not very clear. They are pretty funny though, as they What's Up Tiger Lily? the animation.
The show's opening and closing themes, seven in all, running a bit shy of 11 minutes, are presented without the credits over the animation (as well as without the insert recap animation on the closing themes.) This makes a lot of a sense for the opening sequence, as the great animation isn't covered up with words, but the end animation is just one of the female characters sitting in close-up in the sun (so the focus is on her body, with no face showing.) It's a chance to ogle a cartoon, but not much happens.
The Bottom Line